Wooed by great Customer Service

I recently had what I consider to be an outstanding customer service experience. I’d been looking, looking, looking for an area rug to, not just fill the space under my coffee table, but to make my new apartment cozier.  I’d been close to pulling the trigger a few times, but had not yet felt compelled to pull out my credit card. Then a friend suggested I look at Angela Adams’ rugs.  A quick tour around the site and I was hooked – not only were the rugs great, the prices were good and I loved the intimacy of their site with insight into the people behind the designs and the company.  (www.angelaadams.com) So, after a quick poke around, I finally pulled that trigger on a cream textured 5 x 8 rug which was, BONUS, on sale.  As  I clicked on the thumbnail image of the rug on the site, I was surprised that I could not get any further. Rather than being sent to a shopping cart, I was instructed to call a 1 800 number to complete the sale. Grrr, at first, slightly irritated by this, I picked up the phone and dialed. My irritation was dissipated immediately as what I pictured to be a young woman, sitting in a nice green laid-back town in Maine, where Angela Adams is headquartered, cheerily answered the phone. ‘Lilly’ kindly explained that the reason for not being able to order directly from the site was due to limited availability – in fact there was just one of the rugs left.  She quickly put a hold on the rug to ensure that none of...

Arc’teryx Girl

Since the beginning of time (my time) I’ve been a skier. Any winter that did not involve skiing is pre-memory for me.  So, I’ve pretty much seen it all – in ski gear that is. Leather ski boots, to plastic rear entry, to my new Lange ‘slippers’ with Sure Foot liners. And while I once bragged about the length and stiffness of my skis, today it’s all about shape and girth. Then there’re the clothes, from my hand-me-down matching orange jacket and pants to my blue stretch pants with padded knees (so cool) to my back-country one-piece and now everything Gore-Tex. Yes, I’ve done my share to keep the ski industry afloat. And while I’ve been a part of this microcosm of consumerism for (ahem) 39 years, I was recently moved by how brand prolific it is. Recently while in Whistler (my mountain of choice), as if coming out of a dream, I suddenly noticed, how surrounded I was by brands. Brand names and labels covered me and my fellow ski buddies from head to toe. So I decided to count… brands that is. In a gondola lift of 4 people no less than 28 brand names were visible to me. Here goes. Helmets: Giro, Bern, Smith, POC. Goggles:  Smith, Oakley, Bolle, Carrera. Neck Warmer: REI. Jackets: Helly Hansen, Arc’teryx, Descente, Columbia. Ski cam: Sony. Gloves: Dakine, Marmot, Outdoor Research, Black Diamond. Pants: North Face, Burton, Hard Wear. Boots: Tecnica, Lange, Burton, Rossignol. Poles: Leki, Scott, Dynastar. Oh and throw in a few ‘Gore-Tex’ labels on top. Yes, there were only four of us in that gondola… and no,...

Brand Baby: Gen Now – Artists & Curators

Gen Y are rapidly becoming the generation equivalent of Apple.  They are fascinating and we admire them; however, there’s no shortage of opinion about them.  As the knowledge market about Gen Y grows more saturated, attention is turning to the next generation, Gen Z.  Those born between the years 1996 and 2010.  The youngest are barely two, yet can identify the Golden Arches whilst blindfolded, and as a mom of three Gen Zers I’ve had direct experience, although it hasn’t been through a controlled experiment…. This young generation is significant because they’re big in number (287m in India, 215m in China and 45m in the US, source: Grail Research) and, despite some being barely out of diapers, they’re clued up, persuasive consumers from the start.  They influence family brand choices from electronics to cars: 31% of US children, aged between 6-12, wanted an iPad over any other electronic device for Christmas in 2010; followed by a computer (29%) and an iPod touch (29%) (Grail Research). If women buy houses, car makers recognize kids now buy family cars.  Toyota. http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/kids/index.html. And then there’s Volkswagen’s ad from 2011 -  the kid uses the “force” when he discovers a new Passat in his driveway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R55e-uHQna0 Apparently there’s no shortage of words and phrases engineered to capture their unique generational essence. A Google search revealed - we first called them Gen V (for virtual).  Then there’s Generation M (for multi-tasking), Generation C (for the connected generation), the Net generation, the Internet Generation and Digital Natives – 73% are on a social network and 63% are online daily (Grail Research).  Pretty remarkable statistics considering...

Brand Baby: Ben & Jerry’s – rediscovering purpose

Ben and Jerry’s both indulges and mystifies me in roughly equal measure. Their super delicious and refreshing products are guaranteed to put me a good mood especially after grocery shopping with the three boys in tow. Indeed, bribing the boys with a visit to the Mount Kisco Scoop Shop is a sure fire way to stop them putting the 100th Spider Man cookie into the cart as the temptation of vanilla ice-cream cones with rainbow sprinkles overpowers the lure of sugared super-heroes. As the boys grapple with the generous sized ice creams I usually indulge in a frozen latte before all hell breaks loose as their attention diverts to emptying out the napkin dispenser, over-filling the complementary water cups and playing with the in-store merchandise thoughtfully or annoyingly placed (depending if you are an adult or a child) at just the right eye height for under 7’s to play with. Despite the stress of eating in a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, I can feel semi-relaxed as their treats are almost guilt free (minus the calories of course!). After all Ben & Jerry’s promises mostly natural, homemade products brought to us in socially responsible ways; although some may dispute the credibility of these claims as some of their products contain corn syrup. With that said, Ben & Jerry’s have a social conscience; they democratize their premium product through their Free Scoop Days (yes!), they publicly support Occupy Wall Street and they’ve whole heartedly adopted ingredients that are Fair Trade Certified. Their brand personality also comes in scoopfuls - just think of their delightful product names and innovative flavor combinations....

Bin the catalogue. Disposable brands.

In my experience the gap between expectation and reality can cause disappointment. This was made clear to me after the birth of my first child. As proud new parents we excitedly commissioned a photographer to take pictures of us with our wee bundle of joy. In my mind’s eye I foresaw the photos turning out similar to an Estee Lauder advertisement - us all dewy skin, with golden locks, white teeth and misty smiles as we tossed our progeny playfully in the air while a golden Labrador puppy played around our picnic basket. When the eagerly anticipated photographs came back they looked somewhat different…Six months of sleep deprivation and no gym visits had clearly taken their toll; we looked pasty and bloated. My hair resembled a raccoon as I’d clearly overlooked the mandatory two monthly visits to the hairdressers in favor of a few too many muffins and whole milk lattes whilst breast-feeding in Starbucks.  My husband’s first reaction on seeing the photographs was that we’d looked like we’d eaten ourselves. Gwyneth Paltrow clearly need not feel threatened! Home shopping using catalogues and online photographs as stimuli reminds me of the salutary lesson learned from that photographic experience. Now as a parent of three young boys I have little choice but to shop from home as visits to the mall, Main Street or the city shops with three young kids in tow is beyond stressful and going alone is a rare treat squeezed between swimming lessons and soccer practice. Lately I’ve become too fixated on Pottery Barn. Online shopping with them would be a breeze if you’re an altogether more...

Brand Baby 6: Building blocks of the future

According to a recent article I read, boys are driven by accomplishment and reward. As a mother of three boys under 6, I regularly pay 25 cents to motivate them to accomplish any number of menial tasks: putting on shoes, tidying up, etc. Now that my eldest two boys have reached four and six this need for motivations and incentive is becoming increasingly evident. I believe their brand du jour, LEGO, is perfectly placed to deliver on this. LEGO stands for fun, imagination, creativity, and learning. Speaking as a parent of boys, it seems they consistently deliver on what kids enjoy. Their traditional product of bricks and blocks taps boys’ seemingly inherent and basic need to build, either solo or as a team. My boys take great pride in their constructions whether following by the box instructions or embarking on a free-style version. Partnering with the most in-vogue kids’ brands of today, LEGO knows how to continually connect with its consumers. The brand has steadily moved beyond building blocks to position itself as an experiential brand, the most obvious incarnation being their amusement parks. However their co-branding opportunities also point to this shift as my boys construct, animate and develop accompanying stories focused around their creations, seemingly absorbing the brand in every sense. More recently, LEGO have done it again with their interactive games. They’ve tapped precisely into what makes boys tick: achievement and reward. A coyote could walk into our family room, devour their Starbursts and my boys would be oblivious until they had mastered their obsession – Lego Star Wars. As they reach the next level they...
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